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VitaiLampadaTHERE'S a breathless hush in the Close to-night -Ten to make and the match to win - A bumping pitch and a blinding light, An hour to play and the last man in. And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat, Or the selfish hope of a season's fame, But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote "Play up! play up! and play the game!" The sand of the desert is sodden red, -Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead, And the regiment blind with dust and smoke. The river of death has brimmed his banks, And England's far, and Honour a name, But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks, "Play up! play up! and play the game!" This is the word that year by year While in her place the School is set Every one of her sons must hear, And none that hears it dare forget. This they all with a joyful mind Bear through life like a torch in flame, And falling fling to the host behind - "Play up! play up! and play the game!"
Rupert Brooke, The Soldier (1914)If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. And think, this heart, all evil shed away,A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
On through the hail of slaughter,Where gallant comrades fall,Where blood is poured like water,They drive the trickling ball.The fear of death before them,Is but an empty name;True to the land that bore them,The SURREYS played the game.
In August 1914, Volunteers had to be: 5”8’ (battle of the Marne, Sept. 1914: 263,000 British and French Casualties)
By October: 5”5’ (30,000 casualties)
By November: 5”3’
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the parkVoices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,Voices of play and pleasure after day,Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
* * *
About this time Town used to swing so gayWhen glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, -In the old times, before he threw away his knees.Now he will never feel again how slimGirls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands;All of them touch him like some queer disease.
* * *
There was an artist silly for his face,For it was younger than his youth, last year.Now, he is old; his back will never brace;He's lost his colour very far from here,Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot raceAnd leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
* * *
One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,After the matches, carried shoulder-high.It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,He thought he'd better join. - He wonders why.Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts,That's why; and may be, too, to please his Meg;Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jiltsHe asked to join. He didn't have to beg;Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,And Austria's, did not move him. And no fearsOf Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hiltsFor daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.
* * *
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.Only a solemn man who brought him fruitsThanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
* * *
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,And do what things the rules consider wise,And take whatever pity they may dole.To-night he noticed how the women's eyesPassed from him to the strong men that were whole.How cold and late it is! Why don't they comeAnd put him into bed? Why don't they come?
DulceEt Decorum Est: (It is sweet and decorous to die for one’s country}